CCA achieves record productivity with Dematic’s breakthrough picking method
Coca-Cola Amatil is achieving record-breaking productivity rates of more than 1400 picks/hour at its new Eastern Creek DC thanks to a world-first order picking methodology developed by logistics systems supplier Dematic
The new Negative-PUT process optimises case picking productivity by pairing suitable orders and fulfilling them through a high rate, integrated goods to the man pick module.
Dematic’s Industry Logistics Manager, David Rubie, said the Negative-PUT process takes advantage of a practice sometimes used by experienced pickers to reduce their workload.
"Smart pickers will occasionally notice that among the orders they have there are a couple with which they can kill two birds with one stone, or, in this case, complete two orders with one pick," said Mr Rubie.
"This practice is very opportunistic, however, our systematic approach identifies all negative pick opportunities creating substantial productivity gains."
Dematic’s patented Negative-PUT software uses a number of complex algorithms to re-sequence orders to generate the highest quantity of negative pick opportunities and the optimum order fulfilment sequence for any batch of orders.
The Negative-PUT process is fulfilled through ergonomically designed goods to the man pick modules. Bringing stock to the picker and ‘putting’ the stock to orders, instead of transporting orders past stock eliminates the time wasted travelling between picks, further optimising productivity and throughput.
Negative-PUT: How it works
The Negative-PUT software interfaces with CCA’s WMS, requesting stock for the orders, and notifying the WMS when an order has been completed and is ready for further processing or despatch.
Full and empty pallets required for the Negative-PUT pick modules are loaded by forklift onto integrated pallet conveyors.
Each time a new order is to be picked, the conveyors automatically deliver two full pallets of stock (donor pallets) and two empty pallets (put pallets).
Large screen workstations provide clear visual instructions for the pick module operators, with Dematic’s Negative-PUT software directing the picker to take a quantity of cases from the first ‘donor’ pallet and place it onto the first ‘put’ pallet. They may then be asked to take a further quantity of stock and place it onto the second ‘put’ pallet. They may then be instructed to remove a quantity of cases from the second ‘donor’ pallet and place them to the first and second ‘put’ pallets.
In the above example, the Negative-PUT process has completed four work orders with the minimum possible number of case movements.
The stock quantity on the two ‘donor’ pallets now matches that required to fulfil two orders, while the cases on the ‘put’ pallets form the base pallets to which any remaining items required for the two orders will be picked conventionally.
Check-weighers confirm the operator has picked the correct number of cartons, and the integrated conveyor system transports the pallets to the outfeed station.
Record Productivity: 1400+ picks/hour
"Within the first eight weeks of operation, CCA’s Eastern Creek DC has been consistently achieving productivity rates of more than 1400 picks/hour," said Grant McClean, CCA’s Major Projects Manager.
"The net effect of the Negative-PUT process is that around 20% of the cases required for mixed pallet orders are despatched without being picked," he said.
"This contributes to the remarkably high productivity and throughput rates, as does the ergonomic goods-to-the-man solution.
"Around 70% of the DC’s orders pass through the Negative-PUT module, with about 35% of the orders complete when they exit," explained Mr McClean.
Voice-directed computing is used for all other case picking, with CCA’s team of up to 25 pickers equipped with Dematic’s latest wireless Bluetooth-enabled Vocollect voice computers and headsets.
Inbound Logistics: RO-RO auto truck unloading
More than 95% of the stock at Eastern Creek is delivered from CCA’s Northmead production plant.
The DC typically receives up to 60 trucks per day from Northmead, with the number rising to more than twice this during seasonal peaks.
To ensure efficient goods receiving and minimise forklift operations, the DC features three roll-on, roll-off (RO-RO) automated ‘skate-type’ truck unloading docks. Up to 22 pallets can be unloaded in under 15 minutes from each dock, with the pallets automatically scanned, check-weighed and transported by the receiving system’s integrated pallet conveyor to their reserve storage put-away location.
Supporting the RO-RO system and providing flexibility in receiving is the DC’s manual forklift operations.
The pallet conveyor also optimises the efficiency of manual unloading. Instead of continually driving backwards and forwards through the DC to put pallets away, forklift operators can simply load pallets onto the conveyor, which transports and sorts the pallets to a pick up station close to their reserve storage location, further reducing unnecessary forklift movements.
Outbound Logistics: Faster, safer truck loading
"The Auto Despatch System (ADS) gives CCA the ability to pre-pick, assemble and stage orders," explained Dematic’s Industry Logistics Manager David Rubie.
The ADS features a Dematic Pallet Runner satellite storage system with 144 lanes, each capable of storing up to 12 pallets, the typical capacity of CCA’s Route Trade delivery fleet.
"This means the ADS can stage the orders for up to 144 truckloads at any one time, which provides a buffer of around 16 hours during peak periods," said Mr Rubie.
Once loaded onto the ADS infeed by forklift or pallet trucks, all pallet handling is automated. The height, width and weight of pallets are checked before they are transported through a stretch-wrapping process.
Two automated stacker cranes quickly and efficiently put the pallets away in the relevant ADS lane for the order.
"When it is time to load a truck, a forklift operator scans a barcode to confirm they are at the correct location and begins the process by removing and loading the first pallet onto the truck," said Mr Rubie.
"On their way back to the ADS, the forklift operator picks up one of the DC’s eight Pallet Runner carts, places it in the relevant lane in the ADS, and issues an instruction to empty the lane.
"The Pallet Runner cart automatically drives under the next pallet in the lane, lifts it, and brings it to front of the ADS for the forklift operator to remove. By the time the forklift operator has loaded the pallet onto the truck and returned to the ADS, the Pallet Runner cart has retrieved and placed the next pallet for collection to the front of the lane, with this process being repeated until all pallets for the truck have been unloaded.
"Staging orders takes order assembly off the critical path, ensures efficient, reliable truck loading, and minimises truck turnaround time in the despatch area," added Mr Rubie.
OH&S Initiatives: A safer workplace
A key design principle with CCA’s Eastern Creek DC was to minimise the physical impact of handling thousands of cases each day, and to create a safer workplace for the DC’s staff.
The DC includes a number of innovative storage design features including wider than normal aisles, a higher first beam level plus additional space between and around pallets.
While the increased space reduces the total storage capacity of the DC, the associated improvements in operational efficiencies and OH&S made this an easy decision for CCA. This design is also in line with the latest Workcover order picking guidelines.
Wider aisles ensure safer forklift and pallet truck flow and more space around the pick face provides quicker and easier access to stock whether it is at the front or rear of a pallet, greatly reducing the potential for the picker to trip or stumble while reaching for and lifting cases. The additional space also reduces the potential for forklift collisions with the storage system when putting away or retrieving pallets. Forklift and pedestrian traffic are also segregated in several areas.
The Negative-PUT module has been ergonomically designed with integrated pallet elevators and conveyors automating pallet handling. CCA has trained a dozen of its DC workers to operate the Negative-PUT module, cycling them through the module every half hour or so to minimise operator fatigue.
Eastern Creek DC: Servicing CCA’s NSW Route Trade
Commissioned in June 2009, the Eastern Creek DC services CCA’s 14,000 Route Trade customers from Bega to Coffs Harbour.
The Route Trade represents a large part of CCA’s business in NSW, accounting for close to half of throughput during the summer peak.
Route Trade customers range from corner stores and convenience shops through to service stations, small grocery and fresh food outlets, as well as an increasing number of bottle shops and liquor wholesalers.
"They tend to place smaller orders for a case of this, and a case of that, making order fulfilment a labour intensive and costly process," explained CCA’s Grant McClean.
The Eastern Creek DC complements CCA’s automated high-bay DC at its Northmead production plant. Commissioned in September 2008, the Northmead DC handles all large quantity, full pallet orders for retailers and high volume customers, with the two DCs being key elements of CCA’s supply chain-remodelling program Project Jupiter.
Project Jupiter: Supply Chain Remodelling
Project Jupiter has greatly simplified CCA’s supply chain and logistics network. As well as improving order fulfilment efficiency and reducing distribution costs, it has eliminated the inefficient trans-shipment of stock between locations, reducing transport costs and substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Prior to Project Jupiter, CCA was warehousing stock at up to six Sydney locations and two regional warehouses. Under Project Jupiter, order fulfilment now takes place at the two new Sydney DCs, with the regional warehouses simply cross-docking orders for local delivery.
As well as reducing transport and distribution costs and enhancing service delivery, the four-year Project Jupiter has created a responsive supply chain to support CCA’s growth strategy.
Together, the two new DCs provide a combined storage capacity of 90,000 pallets, with sufficient space on the Eastern Creek site to build a further 30,000 pallet capacity high-bay facility.
The remodelling of its supply chain, which has involved capital expenditure of $180 million, provides CCA with the ability and capacity to store and deliver forecast volumes until 2015.
It is estimated that the reduction in forklift operations associated with truck loading and unloading across the two sites will save more than 200,000 litres of diesel fuel and hundreds of tonnes of LPG annually.
These savings will yield an annual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of around 1,000 tonnes of CO2, which equates to taking over 200 cars off the road per year.
Summary: Benefits and Savings
In designing the new Eastern Creek DC, CCA and Dematic have implemented a step change in the way orders for high volume mixed case pallets are processed, setting new standards for productivity and throughput, while also creating a new generation of workplace safety.
Within just eight weeks of operation, the DC was already on par with prior performance, with a consistent gain of 20% to 30% anticipated when the operation is fully bedded in.
Benefits and savings include:
Reduced transport and distribution costs
Innovative, ergonomically designed world-first Negative-PUT module
Elimination of 20% of all physical case picking
Improved customer service through increased pick and invoice accuracy and pallet build quality
Fewer errors, reduced returns and product damage
Improved service to drivers
Substantial reduction in truck mileage from old supply chain to new
Automated truck unloading with integrated pallet conveyor infeed
Wireless Bluetooth-enabled voice-directed computing for order picking
Faster, safer, more efficient order staging and truck loading with ADS
Numerous OH&S initiatives aimed at maintaining a safer workplace
A wide range of sustainability benefits including significant reductions in greenhouse gases